LIHUE — The endangered species capitol of the world has thrown its weight behind a lawsuit targeting the Affordable Clean Energy rule, signed in June by Environmental Protection Administrator Andrew Wheeler.
The lawsuit filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit also alleges violation of the federal Clean Air Act. Also party to the lawsuit are California, Oregon, Minnesota, Rhode Island and New York.
The new rule is touted as still protecting the health and safety of people and the environment while keeping costs “affordable,” according to White House June statements.
Opponents are concerned the new rule is really meant to boost the fossil fuel industry and will have negative impacts on the environment.
In Hawaii, where sea level rise and climate change are already making their marks, some of those working with the endangered animals and their habitats say this rule further weakens endangered species protections.
Hannah Bernard, director of the nonprofit conservation group Hawaii Wildlife Fund, says it’s already a challenge protecting Hawaii’s unique species.
“We have a lot of species in Hawaii that we’re very concerned about. Some are doing better. We have some success stories, but the future is uncertain,” Bernard said.
Green sea turtles are one of those species on the road to recovery — all green sea turtles are listed as endangered or threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, depending on their distinct populations.
One of the Hawaii population’s critical breeding grounds was flooded in 2018 when Hurricane Walaka hammered remote East Island in the northwest Hawaiian Islands. When the storm hit, it was close to the end of the tuttles’ breeding season. Researchers are still studying the impacts of the storm on the Hawaii breeding population.
They are also concerned that it’s going to happen again.
“The loss of that habitat is very likely because the hurricane tracks are changing,” Bernard said. “We’ve never had one that hit the northwest Hawaiian Islands and done that type of damage before.”
Warming seas have been shown to be linked to changing weather, and to greenhouse gas emissions.
The concern is that species will face even more threats in the years to come, with sea level rise already predicted to severely impact coastal lands, a potential change in storm tracks impacting habitats, and climate change introducing mosquitoes to higher elevations.
“It’s getting challenged in court, and I’d like to believe he (President Donald Trump) wouldn’t be able to succeed in this attempt to dismantle one of the most important laws in the world,” Bernard said.
The Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists and Center for Biological Diversity are some of the environmental advocacy groups that have spoken out against the new rule.
The Trump administration maintains the rule will “fuel historic economic growth,” according to a White House Fact Sheet, which also outlines plans to limit greenhouse gases at power plants.
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.